Last time out, there was a thrilling battle in Germany at the Sachsenring, with Dani Pedrosa for Honda winning a closely fought race. Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo are fighting hard for the lead in the rider’s title, separated by just 15 points coming into this race.
Casey Stoner topped the timesheets in the first and third practice sessions, with Lorenzo coming top of the field in the second. The current champion suffered a nasty accident in the third session at the early part of the lap, with his Yamaha high siding at turn 5, leaving him a bit sore, but was later cleared to carry on riding over the rest of the weekend.
Jorge Lorenzo shook off his crash that morning to secure pole position for Sunday’s race, setting a time of 1.21:202, pushing Stoner into second, with Dani Pedrosa filling the last spot on the front row. Ben Spies was in contention for pole position on home soil, but ended up fourth after crashing out of qualifying. Marco Simoncelli and Andrea Dovizioso filled out the rest of the second row, with Valentino Rossi doing better than last by qualifying 7th, as opposed to 16th in Germany last week.
There were several other crashes in qualifying, most notably with Randy de Puniet of Pramac Ducati and Alvaro Bautista. De Puniet crashed at Turn 5 halfway through the session, and had medical checks to see if he would be cleared to race, but had to withdraw as he had damaged two vertebrae and his pelvis. Bautista walked away with a spectacular high-speed crash at Turn 3, with his Suzuki badly damaged after hitting the fencing.
At the start, Lorenzo had an electric start, leading into the Andretti hairpin, followed by a sea of orange Hondas', with Pedrosa slotting in front of Stoner. Valentino Rossi was also making good ground, ending up in 6th by the end of the first lap, struggling to keep his bike stable all the while, but Ben Spies refused to give up his place, and got past ‘The Doctor’, and opened up a lead on him. Rossi eventually finished in front of his teammate Nicky Hayden. Cal Crutchlow crashed out early after lap 2, wrecking his Tech 3 Yamaha. Ben Spies finished in 4th place, passing Andrea Dovizioso with a couple of laps to go.
Simoncelli crashed on lap 6, ending up in the gravel trap, with the bike sliding on its side and leaving a huge plume of dust drifting towards the circuit. Ben Bostrom, at the age of 37, was making his Moto GP debut as a wildcard entry, however he retired with gearshift selector problems on lap 11. Colin Edwards benefited from other riders crashing out early, even though his race was fairly uneventful.
Alvaro Bautista on the Suzuki slid off the track at lap 14, ruining the front end of his bike, which wasn’t going anywhere, even with the marshals helping him push it. By the halfway point, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Stoner had pulled out a lead over the rest of the field, separated by less than a second. On lap 17, Stoner pulled off a fantastic & aggressive overtake at the famed 'Corkscrew'; sliding past his Spanish team mate.
With ten laps to go, Lorenzo and Stoner had opened up a lead over Dani Pedrosa, with the Australian pressuring Lorenzo all the while. Then Stoner showed the power of the Honda engine, passing Lorenzo to complete a daring move on the outside on the main straight four laps later. Then Stoner charged forward, eventually winning in front of Lorenzo by 3.5 seconds, with Pedrosa completing the podium.
In two weeks time, MotoGP moves on to the Czech Republic, with the riders taking on the Brno circuit. Will Casey Stoner further extend his lead in the championship of Jorge Lorenzo? Will Rossi ever find a good set-up on his bike? Or will anyone else spring a surprise? We look forward to finding out in 2 weeks time.
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